Free Gardens in New Jersey

Updated: Jul 13

Throughout my twenties, it has felt like anything I wanted to do with friends cost money. It can be a lot of getting a career started and also maintain a social life when going out means spending $40 or more. Thankfully spending money got old quick. I’m constantly looking for sustainable options this generally includes some form of exploring. 


These free gardens in New Jersey range in attraction, size, and quality. I give my honest opinion of the grounds. The gardens are in no particular order of ranking. 


For your visit don't forget to bring:

1. Skylands Manor and New Jersey Botanical Gardens

Located in Northern New Jersey in Ringwood, New Jersey. This location is amazing to see different flowers. There are many great walking trails. The trails bring you to different arrangements. When you think of Botanical gardens they are spread out which the grounds are.


On the property is a building known as Skylands Manor. It was designed in the mid-1920s by architect John Russel Pope. You can get guided tours on select Sunday’s however this does come at a charge. The tour is about 45 minutes long.

The property does allow you to enjoy the grounds or utilize the hiking trails that connect to Ringwood State Park. Come for a leisurely stroll, play games with your family, or take a hike!


While walking the grounds you might even catch people take engagement photos, This is a known for celebratory photos to be taken, If you plan to do this, you will need a permit.


2. Essex County Rose Garden


Located on the border of Bloomfield and Montclair, New Jersey. This one is on a smaller scale compared to the other gardens on the list. This was slightly tricky for me to find. The gardens are across the street from the tennis court. Parking is free, be mindful that most roads through the park are one way.


Here is a brief history of the Essex County Rose Garden which is in Brookdale Park. The park was established in June 1959. The Rose Garden is 15,000 square feet and has 29 separate beds of flowers.

My review of this park, anti-climatic. Granted I had gone from another rose garden that would be hard to follow up. I do believe that contributed to why I was underwhelmed. If you are walking the park and stumbled upon it, it is nice. However, I would make this a stopping point on a day putting or bring a blanket and have a picnic.


3. Ringwood Manor


Located in Ringwood, New Jersey. The grounds here are for the adventurous spirit. Here the gardens are spread out so you’ll need comfy shoes to walk. The grounds also connect to Ringwood State Park and you can hike from here.

This would be a space for more wanting to stroll the grounds and go on a hike. This is great for kids to get out some energy. It is a more relaxed space to enjoy.


4. Rutgers Garden

Located in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Spend the whole day here! I’m not kidding, you literally could spend the whole day here. I did not realize how much the grounds here had to offer. I will put the disclaimer, you need a permit to take posed photography.


I thought this was pretty crazy, I was actually yelled at. I think the woman was hoping to catch me posing for a photo rather than just taking a photo. I will not say the people who work here are unkind, but this was the only employee I encountered which I hope doesn't reflect the other employees.


When you enter the grounds, you head towards the Holly House. Once you come to the stop sign next to the Holly House, you turn right and go into the visitor parking lot. All free!

You can either review the map to pick where to go if you walk down the paved path and walk to any of the garden sections of your choice., They branch off from the paved road and connect to each other.


I enjoyed the Donald B. Lacey Display Garden, Art Rudolph Sun and Shade Garden, Rhododendron Garden, and the Herb Garden. I'm not ranking these all higher than the others. They were the spots I really enjoyed and are easy to access from the paved road. I feel like I only saw an 1/8 of what the garden has to offer.


Also, visiting here during the current situation, there are some things you miss from things not being fully open.

Watch my YouTube video to see my time here!


5. Duke Farms

Nestled in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Take your walking shoes or bike or see what Duke Farms has to offer. They do offer free bike rentals. Of all the gardens I’ve mentioned, this location has the largest grounds. The whole property is 2,740 acres, but only 1,000 is open to the public.

The grounds and displays are really spread out. Doris Duke who was the second owner enjoyed horticulture and agriculture. If you want to see it all in a day, you’ll want to bike to ride. If you’re walking, the grounds are designed to have picnics throughout.

Gardens I highly suggest checking out are The Orchid Range, the bonded foundation, and bamboo garden. I did not get to see the bamboo garden on my visit. However, whenever I have entered a trail of bamboo, the sound of the wind going through it, is like nothing else. So relaxing and peaceful.


I have a more in-depth blog post you can check out if you click here.

6. Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Located in Summit, New Jersey. Enjoy a beautiful morning or afternoon here. You’re able to bring a blanket and have a picnic. I went into great detail on my blog post about two arboretums in Summit, New Jersey. As mentioned in that post, you will most likely see professional levels photographers out there snapping photos of the grounds.

When you come from the parking lot you are greeted by a walking path near a welcome hut with a map of the grounds. To you right will be the house and their own secret garden.



From there you will move on to the rose garden which you’ll need to walk through. The mix of colors placed together makes for great photos. The next section is the herb garden. All the smells from the herbs and the roses make a great aroma. The grounds have benches throughout for you to sit at and enjoy.

I recommend taking the walking trail through the Wildflower Meadow. The views of the back of the home, and I’m told at the end of March the field is so vibrant with wildflowers. I went in May so I missed them in bloom. The different blooms and mix of plants and the ground make this a spot to return again and again to see something new.

7. Colonial Park Rose Garden

This wowzah is based in Somerset, New Jersey! Let me just start with that. Legit, woooowzah! This is the biggest rose garden I have ever been to. The front section they actually maintained to be like the original garden which was part of the original Mettler Estate


From there they added on more beds, seating, and a sensory garden. Space can be used for wedding or engagement photos. I can only imagine how beautiful those photos must come out. You will need a permit for professional photography photoshoots.

The parking lot has its own entrance. Coming down the road, there will be an entrance for Colonial Park, but of the three entrances, only one goes to the Rose Garden. One side of the road has one entrance and the other side of the road has two. Check out my YouTube video to see my struggle to find the rose garden.

The display of all the roses is almost overwhelming. It is so beautifully cared for and crafted. I went on June 23, 2020, and the roses were probably at peak bloom. Roses have two blooms, the end of May or June and September or October. It all depends on the weather conditions of that year.

Check out this video to see my time spent at this Rose Garden!


Facts of Attractions of New Jersey:

  • Trenton is the capital of New Jersey

  • Thought of as the diner capital of the country

  • American currency is in American dollars and cents

  • Nicknamed the garden state

  • Most densely populated state in the US

I hope you enjoy this blog post about free gardens in NJ! If you have any questions about the area please email me at rebeccanoelle@r-noelle.com 


Save these pins to remember these free gardens and the wonderfulness this location offers Click here to get insured on your next trip!



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